FDA chief encourages states to open photos to more people


People line up on New Years Eve to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at a senior citizen site in an unoccupied store in the Oviedo shopping center. Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered Florida residents aged 65 and over to be included in the first group to be offered coronavirus vaccinations, contrary to federal CDC recommendations.

Paul Hennessy | LightRocket | Getty Images

The head of the Food and Drug Administration said on Friday he was urging states to start vaccinating lower priority groups against Covid-19 as US officials try to pick up the pace after a slower-than-expected initial rollout.

FDA Commissioner Dr Stephen Hahn did not advise opening vaccines to all Americans, telling reporters states should give injections to groups that “make sense”, such as the elderly , people with pre-existing illnesses, police, firefighters and other essential workers.

“We heard in the press that some people said, ‘Okay, I’m waiting to get all my health workers vaccinated. We have a vaccination rate of around 35%. “I think it’s reasonable to extend this“ to other groups, ”Hahn said Friday morning at an event hosted by the Alliance for Health Policy.“ I strongly encourage that we go from there. forward by giving states the ability to be more expansive about who they can give the vaccine to. “

Hahn stressed that vaccine distribution has yet to be guided by “data and science,” adding that states ultimately know what is best for their communities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided states with a plan that recommends prioritizing health workers and nursing homes first, but states can distribute the vaccine as they see fit. But in recent days, U.S. health officials have expressed concerns that national guidelines could slow the pace of vaccinations as states restrict access to vaccines to some people.

More than 21.4 million doses of the vaccine had been distributed across the United States as of Thursday, but just over 5.9 million doses have been administered, according to data compiled by the CDC. That figure falls far short of the federal government’s goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020 and 50 million Americans by the end of this month.

Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar advised states against “micromanaging” their allocated vaccine doses, saying it was best to get the vaccines out as quickly as possible.

“There is no reason that states need to complete, say immunize all health care providers, before opening vaccinations to older Americans or other particularly vulnerable populations,” he said. Azar told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday.

“If they use all the vaccine that’s allocated, ordered, distributed, shipped and get it to health care providers, every piece of it is great,” he added. “But if for some reason their distribution is difficult and they have vaccines in freezers, then you should definitely open it to people 70 and over.”

Global health experts had said delivering vaccines to some 331 million Americans in a matter of months could prove to be much more complicated and chaotic than originally thought. The logistics of obtaining the vaccine and its administration are complex and require special training. Pfizer’s vaccine, for example, requires a storage temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a press call Thursday, state health officials said they were working to administer the vaccine as quickly as possible, but blamed the federal government’s insufficient funding and communication failure for the slow-down.

They said they expected the vaccination rate to increase once Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is cleared. J & J’s vaccine requires only one shot, while Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses about three to four weeks apart.

US officials have acknowledged that vaccine distribution has been slower than expected. Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, told STAT News on Tuesday that she expects vaccine deployment to accelerate “quite massively” in the weeks to come. come.

“These are the first steps of a really complicated task, but a task for which we are ready,” she told STAT.

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